How many people did you communicate with today? Are they in different time zones? Possibly a different nationality or living in another country? How many of them were young people?
I’m fortunate enough to meet thousands of young people every year as I visit our schools around the world and a highlight of every trip is spending time with our students. From our youngest students to our 18 year olds preparing to go to university, I am always inspired by their passion, energy and the maturity of our conversations.
This is why we’re excited to be supporting World Children’s Day on 20th November. We’ll be encouraging our students to raise their voices and share their opinions on some of the most important challenges facing the world today as #kidstakeover our schools, regional and central teams. Young people are powerful changemakers and with our support, their voice now can have a significant impact for decades to come.
Of course, we should be committed to empowering young people beyond this one day. I believe that an outstanding education not only leads to academic success, but supports young people to develop as global citizens and agents of change. I think young people agree. When I meet with our students, they often talk to me about the significance of being able to connect with fellow students around the world on larger issues.
Think about some of the greatest lessons that you have learned in life. Chances are they were not learned in a classroom setting, but in an unforgettable experience, interacting with another human being and having the opportunity to enact some kind of change.
I believe that these are the types of experiences that students should receive in their education every day. By enabling students to work together, we help them learn the critical 21st century skill of collaboration whilst building genuine connections and friendships. This ability to effectively collaborate and communicate across cultures and borders gives them an enormous advantage as they embark on their careers in a fast changing world.
Education should support students to develop, lead and actively participate in meaningful initiatives which change people’s lives. Schools should be places where students learn the importance of helping others and sustainable development while playing a central role in building the world in which they want to live. Through our work with UNICEF, in addition to many individual initiatives led by our schools, we encourage students to innovate and take action locally, regionally and globally to make a positive difference in big and small ways.
The experiences educators give students, whether it’s presenting at UN headquarters or community service work, will equip them for the leading roles they will play in our future, helping them to develop well informed views on the issues we face today and which will ultimately shape the world in which we live.
These lessons outside the classroom are particularly important because many of our students will go on to important positions and leadership roles in organisations around the world. We believe that these practical experiences will help them learn the impact that their actions can have on other people’s lives, deepen their understanding of different cultures, see the value in collaboration and communication, and ultimately guide their decision making as they enter diverse careers.
And if there’s one thing I want young people to take away from their education—it is to feel empowered. Regardless of how big or small their platform may be or the improbability of their idea, they too can make a significant impact on their world. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when our #kidstakeover.